16 December 2022
16 December 2022, Comments Comments Off on Tom Klüber-Voss – STUDIOSYN
Tom Klüber-Voss - STUDIOSYN

Leading style and design

Many of the most innovative RVs of this millennium are designed by STUDIOSYN: we interviewed Tom Klüber-Voss, the head designer of this German design studio. We met him at the Caravan Salon in Düsseldorf, where two vehicles signed by STUDIOSYN were exhibited: the Hymer Venture S and the Niesmann + Bischoff Flair

Words Antonio Mazzucchelli – photo Enrico Bona

The Hymer Venture S was one of the stars of the Caravan Salon 2022, and continued the style and design solutions of the 2019 Hymer Vision Venture prototype. We asked Tom Klüber-Voss to tell us more about this interesting new model, as well as some other new designs he has worked on recently.

Aboutcamp BtoB: Are there parts of your concepts that you have had to abandon for the final production version? What solutions or innovations are you most proud of?
Tom Klüber-Voss: Often you might have a show car which is very highly styled and designed, but then the production version is not as sexy, however, the production version of the Hymer Vision Venture is almost exactly the same as the show car. The only bit that’s changed is the Sprinter; in the concept it had a new front windscreen, but in the production version we have the original from the Sprinter. I’m very proud that it is so near to the show car. When the rear tailgate is open it gives the feeling of freedom from being close to nature; this is a key point from our concept and we are pleased to now have it in the production version – and that’s very good. Another thing is the elevating roof. It’s a very special and new construction, which is an idea from our studio. We put together the interior and exterior so that nature and the sound of the birds plus fresh air come inside, so if you sit in the chair at the back of the Venture S, you will think you are sitting outside. This combination is really great – a special feeling.

Aboutcamp BtoB: Are there any details that you are particularly proud of in this project?
Tom Klüber-Voss: We have been looking at the van life community. They have fresh ideas, like different materials, and are open minded. We made a professional and high-quality product that looks fresh, authentic and maybe completely different. When thinking about our interior design, we looked into this scene and wanted to bring this freshness into our design while still looking like real life to look and feel more natural, cozy maybe, rather than with perfect furniture; it’s emotional.

Rendering of Bürstner Lyseo Gallery

Aboutcamp BtoB: You said you’re proud because the final version of the Venture is a lot similar to the show car, but how different was the original idea of the Venture, the show car and the final production version?
Tom Klüber-Voss: This has been a very special project. We started with Hymer and BASF, who contributed enough money so we could start working on it, and then they let us free. They only wanted to have a show car, and so we were completely free. This was the first project we were so free and it was a lot of fun for my designers, but the goal for us was to make a product which everybody can imagine using – but we didn’t want to make science-fiction, that’s my opinion of design. I think it’s only interesting if you think “well, it could work, we can do this, etc”, and so our show car was fantastic and it seemed to be producible.

Aboutcamp BtoB: Let’s consider the Niesmann+Bischoff Flair 2023 edition: most of its changes, compared to the previous model, concern the interior furniture. Is a restyling of the interior enough to give new life to a product? What was the main criteria for this project?
Tom Klüber-Voss: It’s not only the furniture, we have a new rear and a face lift at the front. The strategy of Niesmann+Bischoff is not to change everything every time. It has long periods with the same products and doesn’t like to have a revolution in its design. It prefers to have evolution, and this is safe. We created the interior of the Flair 10 years ago: it was the latest generation of interior at that time, and since then there have only been some colour and trim optimization but, now, after 10 years, we made a new design. This shows how continuous our work with Niesmann+Bischoff is. I think it’s a good strategy, but the step from the last generation of furniture to this one is a big one, and they also want to be lean in the product portfolio, so you see the iSmove has the same furniture as the Flair and I think it will go in this direction in the future.

Aboutcamp BtoB: What were the main drivers to create a new interior design for this project?
Tom Klüber-Voss: When you look at the market now, there have been a lot of very conservative designs for 20 years, maybe longer, and we and Niesmann+Bischoff, both like really modern design. During the last two years during Corona pandemic, we saw new consumers coming into the market and the iSmove attracted a lot of these. They want to drive a mobile home but they don’t want to have the same old furniture design, so it’s successful for Niesmann+Bischoff. For me it’s the most modern furniture at the Caravan Salon, and I’m proud of this.

Aboutcamp BtoB: The new interior also adds a continuity of style with the iSmove, so is there a desire to create the same family feeling for the interior as well as for the exterior?
Tom Klüber-Voss: If you think that it’s the right direction you roll it out to all your products, but you can only can do this because every product has a different package, as a base; so you have Flair on an Iveco chassis, the premium product, then you have the Arto on Fiat, a little bit smaller and cheaper, and then you have the iSmove, also on Fiat, but it’s smaller, more compact and lighter, so every product has its place and if you have different opportunities on these three products you can make the same style. Also in the automotive industry, Audi has one style and they use it on the different packages, if you ever buy an Audi, small Audi or big Audi, they have the same steering and the same components.

Aboutcamp BtoB: The Bürstner Lyseo Gallery is a unique vehicle of its kind: an exercise of style, and a vehicle that shows that even a type of product that’s in decline (such as the overcab alcove) can be reborn thanks to an innovative and disruptive project. Do you agree?
Tom Klüber-Voss: A big trend is towards smaller mobile homes because of the electric engines coming in the near future and the high price of petrol, so motorhomes have to become smaller. The Lyseo Gallery is one answer to this problem with a small alcove and good aerodynamics. We tested every model with our virtual aerodynamic channel and saw that the Gallery was maybe 20% better than a normal alcove, and 20% in aerodynamics is a lot. The result can be opened fast or higher than normal. These are two positives, and the stability of the air curtain is very good so you feel safe and cozy exactly like in a regular vehicle.

Aboutcamp BtoB: How similar is the material and design of the elevating roof of the Venture S compared to the one on the new Burstner Lyseo Gallery TD?
Tom Klüber-Voss: Yes, the Lyseo Gallery is also designed by us and it uses the same supplier, so it has the same technology. At first they had to test the technical performance of the material, as it’s all new. It comes from an airbag, but airbags are small and always folded away in the car, whereas here the material is exposed to the air and the sun, so it gets cold, hot and dirty. The material has been optimized so that it works using high-quality materials.

Hymer Venture S

Aboutcamp BtoB: What was your contribution to the new Laika Ecovip? What style concept did you focus on?
Tom Klüber-Voss: The Ecovip had a very old look, it needed to take a big step. We had to make a modern, new design that was also an Italian design, so the step had to be big but we had to take the consumers with us and this was very tricky but, I think, it’s a good integration in the whole design of Laika.

Aboutcamp BtoB: How much stylistic freedom do you have when creating a prototype, taking into account that you will have to deal with something that can actually go into production?
Tom Klüber-Voss: To develop something new, you have to use free-thinking and the result can be far away from reality. At the beginning, we think as freely as possible, and then we reduce the good ideas with our clients and then we had to break them down to the series production. It’s a challenge to think free but also consider the possibilities of mass production. Together, if it is good, this phase of development from design ideal to the series production is the most important time but you only can do this well if you have a lot of technical know-how.

Aboutcamp BtoB: When you design products for different brands, even if within the same group, how do you differentiate the various vehicles? How do you create a brand identity?
Tom Klüber-Voss: The brand’s identity normally already exists, so every brand has its own design and also a look. We are a relative big studio, with 12 designers now, so we have enough designers for every brand. They are also highly specialized: one designer is specialized for one brand. We have to think about what will the client like, what is their style and if we think in this way, we can make different sizes and designs.

Aboutcamp BtoB: How has the tastes of the public changed in recent years? And what will be the trends for the public in the coming years?
Tom Klüber-Voss: The answer is really difficult because in the last few years we have modernized interior styles a lot, and I think this is the way we’ll continue to go. We’ll not have conservative interior designs in the future; I think it’s going to be much more modern. Another factor is sustainability, and I think this will change a lot of interior details as the materials will be different. Maybe screws will be visible, and every material should be recycled. That’s why I think sustainability will change interior styles a lot.

Aboutcamp BtoB: In early 1900, the Austrian architect Adolf Loos went against the prevailing style of the time and called for a simple, better, functional style without excess of ornaments: is this concept still valid?
Tom Klüber-Voss: This is our mindset. We think less is more, and you can see that in the Flair.

Aboutcamp BtoB: What is the mission of a designer: to inspire, educate and innovate?
Tom Klüber-Voss: I’m an industrial designer, and when I’m working for my clients, my goal is to make products for the consumers and if I understand the consumers I can do my job the best; but ultimately, the success of the product is my goal.

Aboutcamp BtoB: Has the growth of the camper van segment reduced the role of designers? For example: you don’t have to design the exterior because it’s a van.
Tom Klüber-Voss: I often think that it’s a box to live in and the driving time is often some hours until you are at your destination and then you live there for days. I think it would be good to reduce the exterior design, but design is emotional and really important, and that’s why we designed it like automotive designs.

Niesmann+Bischoff Flair

Aboutcamp BtoB: What are the most important challenges for a designer in the RV sector today? Weight, sustainability, standardisation?
Tom Klüber-Voss: Weight is the most important, I think. The briefing at the beginning of our work includes standardisation. Weight is really difficult in every dimension, because at the moment every component is light, and nobody works with heavy materials.

Aboutcamp BtoB: What was the most challenging project of your career?
Tom Klüber-Voss: It was the Vision S, because it was a product which is completely different, which adds a lot of technical details, and was one of the longest projects.

Aboutcamp BtoB: Did you regret any projects that you couldn’t make?
Tom Klüber-Voss: For some years, I have been thinking about an electric motorhome and we are working on this, but at the moment there’s nothing which we can realize, so this would be a project for the future maybe. It’s a long way, we have to do small steps and they are not perfect as the batteries are too small for and very expensive.

Aboutcamp BtoB: Do you think that with electric mobility you need to use design to characterise and differentiate the final product?
Tom Klüber-Voss: We are working on projects like this, and if you take another chassis or platform, such as the platform from REE that we are thinking about at the moment. We are thinking that the car could be 1m shorter with the same volume to live in, and it’s smaller so you have a lot of possibilities, but it’s a long way yet to realize this.

Aboutcamp BtoB: Is it easier to design a motorhome or a caravan?
Tom Klüber-Voss: The answer is maybe a caravan, because at the moment we are looking for new styles for the interior. It is a little bit more conservative at the moment, but I think in the future it will have to be more modern because more and more families are buying caravans and I don’t think they like this old-fashioned look. We are working on LMC caravans and you can see a good example of modern design but the conservative design sells. That seems crazy. I think the future for caravans is that we have to make them light, suitable for younger people and we have to modernize the interiors. I think we have to think completely differently about caravans because they have to be smaller, much lighter, which we can only do with a small revolution.

Aboutcamp BtoB: Last question: what is the relationship between an external studio and internal design teams? How do you interact? What are the critical issues?
Tom Klüber-Voss: The trick is to be an external design office or studio and make your work good so that everybody internally thinks that you are part of it. The connection between the two has to be very close. Throughout my career, I’ve been looking for a long partnership, and at the moment we have been working for Hymer for nearly nine years, and in the past we worked for Knaus for approximately 12 years, then five years for Hobby and Fendt, so when it’s a long-term commitment it works best.